The Psychology Of The Quarter-Life Crisis And Why It's Good For You

by Dan Scotti

Let me paint the picture.

You’re in your early to mid 20s and you’re suddenly starting to realize that, yeah, that life character can be a bit bitchy.

Let’s be real here, you’re probably fresh off that graduation ceremony, or perhaps a year or so removed from the whole college experience – and since grabbing that diploma and entering the real world – let’s just say, you’ve been unimpressed with formal adulthood.

I mean, your social life has surely taken a hit – along with your social confidence – which is “chill,” because you’ve been super busy and stressed from your first “real job” (the same one that isn’t paying what you think you really deserve).

You’re starting to age. Quick. You can see it in your face, and feel it in your... joints, ones that you were unaware even existed a few years back.

There was a time when you could stay up all night during the week, grab a quick power nap, and still hit stride the next morning. Nowadays, if you try doing that, the only thing you’ll be hitting is the snooze button – odds are, more than a few times.

Although you might feel as th –– oh yeah, did I mention you’re single, too?

Anyways, although you might feel as though your life is headed the wrong way down a one-way and that the universe and all of its energy is currently being harnessed against you... relax. Breathe for a second. BE COOL HONEY BUNNY (cue Samuel L Jackson voice). You aren’t alone.

In fact, feeling this little… slump, while in your 20s (especially after college), seems to be the norm – at least if you asked the right psychological circles.

This should come as good news to you, although, only in the “misery loves company,” type of way. *cue dramatic music*

According to Veronique Greenwood of Discover Magazine, forget about waiting till your 40s for the chef d’oeuvre of depressing age-relevant benchmarks – the mid-life crisis – people will first start to feel anxiety about their age in their 20s, during what’s known as (in like manner), the quarter-life crisis.

As she explains, the quarter-life crisis refers to the phenomenon that tends to consume young adults between the ages of 25-35 as they deal with the uncertainty building in their lives.

Yeah, that sounds about right – except, if you’re 35 and just experiencing your quarter-life crisis, I wouldn’t panic so much, especially considering you’re on pace to live to see age 140 (do the math, 35 x 4 = 140).

Greenwood then goes on to expand on the particulars of quarter-life crises, specifically the “five phase” nature it tends to materialize itself in.

According to the study included by Greenwood, a survey presented at the British Psychological Society, quarter-life crises typically present themselves over the course of five distinct psychological stages.

First, you might feel as though you’re trapped along the path you’ve chosen to take with regard to “life matters.” The next phase is characterized by the urge to escape.

Thirdly, you might begin to act on these urges – and ultimately quit the things you’re currently working on, in hope of taking a “timeout.”

Next, you’ll focus on rebuilding. Finally, the fifth stage, you look ahead to staying committed to these newer, more centralized, life plans.

Greenwood wraps up her study by making a note to speak on behalf of the positive side of the quarter-life crisis debate.

In agreement with the statistics provided by her research, around 80 percent of people who have reported having these quarter-life crises, also reported that they resulted in an overall positive outcome.

What’s more, is that Greenwood also explains how having your crisis earlier on – be it one of the quarter-life variety – might end up preventing you from having a more potent mid-life one, later down the road.

What do I think? I’m not entirely sure. Do I feel as though young adults will find a slump in their early to mid 20s (and even early to mid 30s, too)? Absolutely.

Do I think it has so much to do with their fear of death, as it does their fear of failure, especially during their young adult years? Absolutely not.

Come on. I’m a sports fan – one step further – I’m a betting man. Do you realize how much higher my blood pressure would be, throughout the course of the day, if I had a “crisis” after every first quarter of a given game?

That’s why you play four quarters, folks, if you f*ck up in the first one – you've still got three more quarters left. So, do I think people will begin to fear death after turning 25? Well, I’d hope not – you’ve still got a lot more living left.

All things considered, however, I do view the early to mid 20s as a very fragile, very resonant, period of our lives.

It will set the tone for the rest of our adulthood, and it will come off the heels of our youthful immaturity – it’s the theoretical bridge between two distinctly different parts of life.

This is why I agree with Greenwood, in her defense of the crisis’ greater good. I’ve always believed that if you’re worrying, it’s a good thing.

If you’re worrying, it shows you that you’re cognizant, it shows awareness. It shows you’re mindful of some target, and although it might seem to be distancing itself from you, you’re attentive to it.

When you’re attentive to problems, there isn’t any quandary you can’t overcome by going to the drawing board, and devising – or re-devising – the right plan.

If you’ve botched the first 25 years of your life – or, hell, the first 35, even – it’s fine. As long as you observe an error in your ways, and a route of correcting it, there is always enough time to right the ship.

Unless you’re, like, Tony Romo – who’s, actually, just about to turn 35, ironically. Speaking of which, I wonder if he’s had his quarter-life crisis yet because, frankly, I don’t think this quarterback thing is working out.

At least not if winning in the playoffs is an important aspect of “success.”